Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Skenes Watch


Skenes has gone from two-way 1st rounder to near 1-1 in just a few starts. Photo via Valley Shook

So, the Nats have the #2 overall pick in 2023’s June amateur draft, only behind Pittsburgh at the top.

While its early in the season, there’s a couple of interesting points to keep up with. The consensus #1 pick right now continues to be LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, and he’s done absolutely nothing to dissuade evaluators of that 1-1 pick so far this season. Through last weekend’s series, Crews’ batting stats look more like a slow-pitch softball hitter’s stats: .531/.658/.988 slash line, 9 homers in 81 ABs, 26 walks to 12 Ks. LSU’s early schedule was a bit easy, but Crews has kept up his performance through the first couple of SEC league matches.

Pittsburgh is notoriously risk adverse in the draft, and there’s nothing that says “risk aversion” more than taking a College outfielder. At this point in the process, i’d be completely floored if Pittsburgh didn’t take Crews.

Which leaves the Nationals with their pick of anyone else.

Now, in the odd case that Pittsburgh decides to be clever and signs an under-slot deal at 1-1 with someone else (something like what Baltimore did recently), The Nats would be fools not to take this guy. Yes our top 3 prospects are all outfielder prospects. No its not a position of need. But this is baseball, not the NBA or NFL. You do not draft for need; you draft the best player available.

But this article is not about Crews. Its about the realities of the Nats current farm system (i.e. almost no pitcher depth) and the emergence of a near 1-1 player in this draft: LSU’s Friday night starter Paul Skenes. Skenes was an Air Force transfer who put up solid numbers in Colorado as a two-way player (not that he’s hitting for LSU’s powerful lineup) before moving into the SEC. And all he’s done since arriving is dominate. Here’s his pitching lines on a week to week basis so far:

  • Home vs Western Michigan: 6IP, 3 hits, 0 Runs 12/1 K/BB.
  • Neutral vs Kansas State: 6IP, 2 hits, 1 ER, 11/2 K/BB
  • Home vs Butler: 6IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 13/0 K/BB
  • Home vs Samford: 6Ip, 2 hits, 1 ER, 12/1 K/BB
  • Away vs Texas A&M: 6.1 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 11/0 K/BB
  • Home vs Arkansas: 7ip, 2 hits, 1ER, 12/3 K/BB

Total? 6 starts, 37.1 innings, just 14 hits allowed to go with a gaudy

Maybe you could quibble about the quality of his first few starts, but TAMU was ranked 15th in the nation when they met two weeks ago, and Arkansas was ranked 3rd when they met in Baton Rouge. Plus Kansas State is a power-5 conference team and Samford is no slouch.

This guy is legit, and he’s legitimately shutting down some of the best teams in college baseball.

Scouting reports on him have not really caught up to what he’s doing so far in 2023. MLBpipeline says the following: “After working at 93-95 mph and touching 99 with his fastball last spring, Skenes operated at 95-99 mph during fall practice, and the flat approach angle and carry on his heater make it even more difficult to hit. His slider has improved at LSU, becoming an 85-88 mph beast with sharp break when it’s on, though it can get loose at times. His power changeup arrives at 88-91 mph with fade and shows signs of becoming a solid offering.

Skenes is hitting 100, 101 now. He’s sitting upper 90s with three pitches. Its a bit early, but he’s performed against two tough SEC teams.

I think he’s the Nats #1 draft target right now.

Written by Todd Boss

March 27th, 2023 at 9:47 am

Posted in Draft

7 Responses to 'Skenes Watch'

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  1. Skenes does seem to have surged ahead of Dollander as the #1 pitching prospect, although Dollander hasn’t been bad. Skenes’s field position at Air Force was actually catcher, but his squatting days are over.

    The other name in 1/1 and 1/2 conversation worth watching is Wyatt Langford at Florida, who has even bigger power projection than Crews.

    I’m looking at the Pirate prospects, trying to guess what they might do. You have to go all the way down to #14 to find a true OF, so that’s really an area of need for them. They have a lot of pitching depth (7 of their top 12), but no one who seems to be a true ace prospect. And that’s my concern with Skenes — that he basically turns into Stras, a generational arm too good to pass up. (As Jack Leiter shows, though, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.)

    As much as I hope Skenes gets to the Nats, if the draft were held right now, I’d say that he goes 1/1. The Nats would pick between Crews and Langford. They’re going to have to trade from their OF stock at some point anyway.


    28 Mar 23 at 9:08 am

  2. The Nats don’t need any more pitching prospects. They need college arms, badly.

    Mark L

    29 Mar 23 at 3:46 pm

  3. HEALTHY college arms, although that may be an oxymoron . . . (Skenes actually doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his arm, as he wasn’t even starting until last season.)


    29 Mar 23 at 4:38 pm

  4. Happy Opening Day! It may be a rough season ahead, but hope always springs eternal today.


    30 Mar 23 at 11:53 am

  5. Yes, Happy Opening Day! Alas, I fear that the Nats’ big goal this summer probably is to win 63 and avoid another 100-loss season.

    Rebuild/future-wise, the few MLB Nats who matter are Ruiz, Abrams, Garcia, Gore, and Gray. I might throw Thad Ward in that mix as well if he proves good enough to get a shot in the rotation. The rest will be forgotten by the time we get good again, unless Joey Bats proves to be a 30-HR guys.

    It sort of doesn’t matter whether folks have given up on Robles, as the OF stampede in the minors soon will render him even more expendable. Kieboom presumably will get another shot whenever his shoulder recovers, but it would take miraculous improvement at the plate to make him relevant.


    30 Mar 23 at 1:03 pm

  6. Skenes vs Dollander last night had a pretty clear winner (Skenes), though I would like to see Skenes have to face LSU’s lineup.

    Skenes’s arsenal, dominance, and late-blooming are all reminiscent of a guy named Strasburg.

    I think Crews and Langford are probably better picks from a risk perspective because pitching prospects break all the time and outfielders don’t. But Skenes could get hitters out in the big leagues *right now.* He’s basically a sure thing unless/until he gets hurt.


    31 Mar 23 at 10:56 am

  7. For those interested, here is the LSU-UT box score:

    Skenes really is moving up into a class by himself. Good to see they took him out after 107 pitches, even in a very close and important conference game.

    I guess we just have to hope that the Pirates think they need OF help more than pitching.

    The positive, though, is that there are so many top-quality college choices. There wasn’t an uninjured top-of-the-rotation college pitching prospect last summer, and the best hitter, Brooks Lee, was a middle infielder with limited power.


    31 Mar 23 at 11:17 am

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